Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Necessity is the mother of invention

Better late than never... And I promise that's the end of the clich├ęs. 

Aside from learning at school and a rather rushed attempt at the cowardly lion at university I didn't start sewing until I had children. I found solving the conundrum of clothes I liked vs clothes I could I afford impossible and when combined with the extra challenge of cloth nappies producing particularly bulky bottoms, learning to make my own seemed like the obvious choice. Although my first attempts were a bit rough round the edges, I managed it and indeed the very first pair I made serviced all three of my sons between the ages of 10 and 18 months without falling apart so I'm pretty pleased with that result. Especially given none of them walked til 16 months so the knees had a lot of wear!

When the boys were 3 1/2 and 18 months we went to a ski resort for a few days and being me, I refused to buy them ski gear. Instead, I adapted my trouser pattern to create fleece lined, waterproof trousers with a drawstring waist and also drawstring ankles so they could be tightened around wellies to stop the snow going up. With a pair of long johns and track suit bottoms underneath they were spot on for the -12 degrees conditions of Cardrona. 

Here they are...

The smallest pair and the middle pair are the originals, and the littlest, having been worn by three of mine and a friends' little boy have now been passed to a cousin - they are still going strong! 

These days we use them when we're dog walking, winter beach trips, snowy play, wet playground excursions, muddy camping and most of all Forset School. 

My youngest goes to the completely wonderful Free Rangers nursery (www.freerangers.org.uk) where the free range ethos translates into whole days spent outside, learning through play and nature. And this is where this week's (or indeed, last week's) make comes in... I decided that now the weather has got a bit colder and wetter it made sense to have a pair of trousers for each day. Sticking to my pledge to use things from the stash, I used left over waterproof from previous trousers and some bamboo fleece from my only partially successful attempt to make cloth pull ups. 

The result, a rather smart looking navy and cream pair with natty red elastic.
All ready to get completely filthy at forest school tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bags of fun

We spend a fair bit of time in this house assessing the credibility of adverts.  Ever since the day my son suggested I buy a particular brand of bathroom cleaner because it would make the bathroom shine and it was a available 'in all good stores' (which I think he thought was the name of the shop) I have been ultra conscious of the impact advertising has on our children.  Understanding that the point of an advert is to encourage you to buy something has been a useful lesson for them.

Like most families we have had numerous conversations about whether a toy is for a boy or a girl but as a family that grew in a boy, boy, girl, boy configuration, all toys have been for all children and it wasn't until they started preschool that any preconceived ideas about what they 'should' be playing with has come to light. 

So now when they are watching the ad breaks or indeed wondering around a toy shop, they are pretty scathing about the gender specific promotion they encounter and increasingly bemoan the fact that they are unable to get what they want in a design that appeals to them.   Enter this week's make!

An hour before we were due to go out on Saturday my seven year old son suddenly exclaims 'I'm just so sick of my purple butterfly bag - why don't they make handbags for boys?!'.  No prizes for guessing what happened next.

We rummaged through the fabric piles and found this:

An offcut of some patchwork that I made to bind a baby blanket with.  We also found this...


which will do as a lining and a strap.  If I'd had more time I'd have used an interlining as well to give the bag more structure.

I figured the patchwork was just the right size for a child size messenger bag and the robot panel would make a funky back to the bag.  I cut the two side panels from the tartan at the top, and then used the pieces as a pattern for the lining.

Lo, and behold.  45 minutes and a quick press with the iron later, we had a boys handbag, or a man bag, or possibly a boy bag.  He promptly filled it with a purse (also borrowed from his sister, and possibly inspiration for my next make), two magnets, a pen, a flannel and a packet of tissues. 





He makes an excellent point though, there are literally dozens of girls' bags available but not so much for your discerning seven year old boy who needs somewhere to keep his flannel. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Week two: curtain's (not quite) up!

I admit it; I'm obsessed with curtains. Perhaps it is a natural extension of my fabric obsession or perhaps the conditioning of repeatedly living in draughty houses but one way or the other, curtains are high on my list of 'useful things'. If I'm honest, curtain fabric (either in curtain form or off cuts of) makes up a reasonably significant part of the fabric stash. When I've paid £25+ a metre for fabric, I'm loathe to bin it. When we moved here a year ago I brought all of the curtains from our last house with me. In fact one blind actually belonged to my neighbour, I intercepted it before it went in the bin.  The collection also includes the very first pair I made myself and had originally been floor to ceiling in my son's room. Then I cut them short at the last house. When we came here I discovered I'd left sufficient hem to be able to make them long enough for their latest incarnation. 

This house has an 'interesting' layout. Between what was the back of the house (though in fact it's the bit near the road so I suppose you'd call it the front) and the old outside loo and wash house is a passage. The previous owners had used corrugated plastic to form a roof but it was absolutely freezing in winter. We've put a proper, insulated (!) roof on but the doors at either end of the passage are still pretty rickety. Not least because they are essentially gates
You can see the centimetre gap at the bottom! The other end is similar. 

The answer - a curtain and a draught excluder!

As it goes, I actually already had the curtain fabric - originally purchased a couple of years ago because it was on sale as the end of the roll and it matched the blinds in the kitchen. So the first part of this week's make was to make the curtain. I went for tab top, partly because I couldn't be bothered with the hooks and tape and partly because I've not actually made one before. The end result is pretty pleasing and will be even more so when I've got the curtain rail up! It currently looks like this 

An action shot will follow shortly.

The draught excluder is something of a work in progress at the moment - but a necessary one. I save all my scraps to stuff things like this and the basket is currently overflowing!


Sunday, 5 October 2014

First make!

I can see the difficulties of this challenge are going to be twofold; the first will be actually making something each week, the second remembering to write a post about it. Despite looking like I've snuck in by the skin of my teeth I did manage to accomplish my first make this week - a pair of trousers for my youngest. As the youngest of four, and last of three boys his wardrobe is mostly hand me downs, from the boutique known as 'The Loft', so it was nice to have the opportunity to make him something new. 

I chose this fabric 
for the outer; there is a point where novelty of novelty clothing wears thin but thankfully my three year old is still very much of the mind that trousers with brightly coloured birds on are pretty cool. We'd been to our local craft shop on a rainy half term day earlier in the year and seen this fabric - we couldn't believe our eyes, a pukeko parade on fabric in sleepy Somerset! My eldest boys were born in New Zealand, where pukekos live and for a few years they were a common sight in our day to day lives. For the lining I used the remains of some blue stripey fabric I had leftover from a babygro I'd made seven years ago. It ended up being a bit of a patchwork inside as it was a struggle to find bits big enough for the pattern pieces but seeing as no one sees the inside I didn't think it mattered.
The end result... Ta daaa (finished late so the lighting was a bit rubbish)
I took another photo the next day, this time of them in action 
They do actually reach his ankles, but he is very attached to his wellies. There's a bit of extra length if you take the turn up down and it's got an adjustable waist so he should be able to wear them for a good while yet. They've also been through the wash twice already since I finished them five days ago so I can confirm they wash at 40 degrees!

Next week... Something to keep draughts out now the weather is getting chilly. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

New term, new beginnings

I've always loved September.  I love the slightly faded, washed out blue of the sky first thing in the morning. I love the crispness of the grass and the beauty of spider's webs illuminated with dew.  I love the growing richness of the colours of nature as the burnt, frazzled look of summer gives way to golds, oranges, reds and deep browns.  I love the warmth of the sun in September but knowing that it is perfectly acceptable to have soup for lunch as it's actually Autumn.  I got married in September.  When I lived on the other side of the world, the shifting of the seasons was one of the hardest things to acclimatise to.

To me, September means a new school year - a new pencil case, with sharp pencils and shoes that took a few weeks to feel comfortable.  I loved school but what I particularly loved was the possibilities of the start of a new school year.  New exercise books with no scribbles, no mistakes, no slighly dog eared corners, just endless possibilities of learning and creating new things.  Now I'm a parent, I still get the same feelings of excitement and anticipation in September and now I'm back in the northern hemisphere I am no longer confused by the lack of autumn and I'm able to delight in brand new parent teacher communication notebooks.

This year feels especially exciting as I'm embarking on a challenge of my own - to make something every week for the next year using only the fabric I have hoarded in my work room.
It seemed like a good idea to start with a photo - if nothing else it means I can assess exactly *how much* fabric we're talking about here...

This is what my corner of the attic normally looks like.  A bit messy, and with some toy related detritus adding to the chaos (my attic space doubles up as the playroom - it varies from the odd jigsaw piece to full scale scalextric with integral marble run and enclosed Sylvanian family village)


You can see the two full laundry bins, and the two big IKEA storage bags under the table?  There's another two of those on the other side... behind the carrier bag of scraps... the drawers are also full... and there's a rucksack in there which is full to busting of rugby shirts that my husband has accumulated over the last 20 years, which we have transported around the world and he refuses to throw out.  So I got it all out...

And this was it... about two foot deep and four foot square.  I reckon that should keep me busy for a bit.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

MadeforMiri's craft fair debut!

Gosh, even longer again!  But as an early / late New Year's Resolution I will endeavour to be more of a dedicated blogger.

MadeforMiri had its first official outing today - to a stall at the Windmill Hill Craft Market in Bristol.  It was a great craft fair, it was really friendly, with a steady stream of buyers and lots of beautiful handmade crafts to lust over. 

I had my Santa Sacks, hot water bottle covers, sunglassses / camera cases, animal costumes and tea cosies for sale and it was great opportunity to get a good feel for what sells well at events like this.  Photos of current stock to follow, along with a link to my Folksy shop when I've loaded everything up.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

We went to the animal fair...

Well, goodness, that turned out to be a longer break than I had intended.  It never ceases to amaze me how much time small people take up.  Anyway, I've got a bit more time again, so I'm getting back on the fabric wagon so to speak.
One of the first things I designed myself and made was a Dorothy the Dinosaur costume for my then 2 year old. We were going to see Dorothy the Dinosaur (from The Wiggles) at the theatre and my son wanted to dress up.  I wanted to make sure that whatever I made was going to last (and it has, that was almost 5 years ago), was comfy, and was easy to get on and off (and, actually, not needed to get off in order to go the toilet!).  The result was a green furry tabard and hood, with yellow spots, yellow spines and a big squishy tail.  A year later I made a knight costume for the same son and his friend, with blue and red quarters, a shield and a visor on the hood.  It's also still going strong... and in fact, he wore it only a few months ago for a party.  Since then, I've made tigers, penguins, rabbits, lambs, cheetahs, dogs, cats and an adult sized pigeon. 
 The kids have so much fun playing in these - loads of scope for unrestricted, imaginative play. Let's face it, who doesn't want to dress up as a tiger from time to time?